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How to Unclog Your Bathtub Once and For All

clogged bathtub
DIY February 19, 2020
Arthur Brodskiy
Arthur Brodskiy

Slow draining bathtub? We’ve all been there. Over time, bathtub drains get clogged up with hair and soap. If left alone long enough, your bathtub might get to the point where it doesn’t drain at all. Fixing these clogs can take a little work, but in most cases you should be able to get rid of the clog on your own. 

Before we start, a little note on chemical drain cleaners. Cleaners like Drano are advertised as quick, easy fixes for clogged bathtubs and sinks. There’s a few problems, though:

  • Health risks. Drano is made up of some pretty serious chemicals that can burn your skin and eyes. Pouring it down the drain leaves you at risk. If the clog doesn’t go away and you try to plunge the drain, you can have chemicals splash back at you.
  • It’s bad for your pipes. Plumbing pipes are designed to carry water and organic matter. That’s it. Pretty much any kind of household pipe is going to come under stress when it comes into contact with these chemical cleaners. Some pipe material, like PVC, might corrode completely. Then you’re left with an even bigger problem.   

Avoid the temptation to just dump a bottle of Drano into your bathtub. There are plenty of methods that will not harm you or your home. 


Unclogging Your Bathtub With Dish Soap and Hot Water


soap water slow draining tub

Dish soap works at knocking out some more mild clogs because of its degreasing properties. For this method you’re going to need a cup of dish soap and a pot of water. 

First, start heating up a pot of water on the stove. While the water is heating up, try to get as much standing water out of your bathtub as possible. You want to be able to get the dish soap into the drain for this method to work. 

Once you’ve cleared the tub of standing water, pour a cup of dish soap into the drain. Let that sit in and activate. By now, the pot of water should be ready to go. It doesn’t have to be quite at boiling temperature. As long as there’s some steam coming out of it, it’s hot enough. 

Pour the pot of water directly into the drain. It might take a bit for the hot water to work its way through the clog, but this method should do the trick if you have a minor clog that isn’t too deep. If the soap and hot water didn’t get the job done, you can try the next method. 


Unclogging Your Bathtub With a Plunger


No, plungers aren’t only used for toilet clogs. In fact, plungers are great tools to tackle everyday clogs in your tub or kitchen sink. But before you start plunging, there’s an important first step you should know about. 

Plungers work because they create a vacuum. The pressure caused by using the plunger is what forces obstructions out of the way. It’s easy to create a vacuum when using a plunger on your toilet, but for your bathtub, there’s a little obstacle to overcome: the overflow.

The overflow is that little opening that prevents water from spilling over the top of your tub if it gets too full. The overflow goes right down into your pipes, so if you don’t seal it up, you can plunge ‘til the cows come home and nothing’s going to happen. 

So take a wet sponge or cloth and push it into the overflow to create a seal. Now you can get to work. Place the cup of the plunger directly over the drain and push it all the way down. Now slowly pull it back up. Repeat this process several times. Eventually you should start hearing some gurgling sounds as the blockage starts to work itself free and air and water start flowing through your drain. 


Drain Claws, Drain Snakes & Augers


bathtub won't drain

If the dish soap and plunger approaches both failed, it’s time to move on to some more manual techniques. For the rest of these methods, you’re going to need some tools. The first tool to try out is a drain claw

A drain claw is a small, wire-like device with hooks or teeth at the end of it. It’s great for pulling out clumps of hair that commonly cause clogs in bathtubs and bathroom sinks. It’s sort of a smaller, more flexible version of a drain snake. Drain claws are cheaper and easier to use than drain snakes and augers, but they’re also shorter. So if your clog is really deep in your pipes or if it’s a substantial obstruction, you’ll want to use one of the bigger tools. 

A drain snake is like a drain claw’s bigger, meaner brother. It’s a thick metal cord with a coil on the end and is typically a few feet long. Drain snakes can handle bigger, deeper clogs than claws. 

To use a snake, feed it into the drain. It might take some work to get the snake to go around the pipe joints, and if you really struggle you can try to put a little bend into the snake. Keep feeding the snake into the drain until you feel the blockage. Then, slowly rotate the snake to either knock the blockage loose or catch it in the coil. Slowly pull the snake out of the drain and test it by running the faucet. 

It’s still possible that the clog is even deeper into your pipes than a typical drain snake can reach. In that case, you can buy an auger. Augers are longer versions of snakes that retract into a drum. They have a crank that ‘reels’ the line back in. You can continue feeding the line into a drain for up to 50 feet or more depending on the auger. 

Augers are more expensive than drain snakes and claws but they can handle deep and stubborn claws. They’re definitely worth the investment. 




Bathtub clogs happen. If your bathtub is clogged, don’t reach for the chemical cleaners. Try a little dish soap and hot water. If that doesn’t work, you can use a plunger, drain snake or auger to force out the blockage.

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